27 August 2012

My Souvenirs

I had intended to wrap up my Finland posts earlier this month, but I keep finding new things about it to discuss. Today's entry was inspired by a post from Go Explore Nature.

In its post, Go Explore Nature talks about the idea of collecting moments, not things. As I thought about it, I realized that the idea almost perfectly expressed my experience of Finland.

The only "thing" I bought on the entire trip was an electrical adapter. However, I brought back so much more. I took more than 1,500 photos (I've included two more from Repovesi National Park in this post); I kept a journal with detailed descriptions of each day; I added about 90 names to my family tree; I soaked up Helsinki, my favorite city in the world; I made nature a central focus of the trip; and I got to spend a third of the time with my wonderful Finnish relatives, who epitomized hospitality and introduced me to new things like snorkeling and orienteering. In addition, I shared the whole thing with my mom.

While I was experiencing the trip and then when I was looking back on it, the word full kept coming to mind. I know I got about as much out of the trip as I possibly could. It was completely satisfying, and I didn't need to buy one thing there to have that feeling. Instead, I took in as much as I could at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the connections to nature and family. It was a complete experience, and it even surpassed the fun of my earlier trip to Finland, during which I actually did buy souvenirs.

The Finland trip of 2012 was my life's greatest experience to this point, and by making it about moments, not things, I captured that feeling to hold through the life chapters yet to come.

Finally, I would just like to say that I cannot thank my mom and my Finnish family enough. Without them, this amazing experience would not have happened. I love them; I love Finland; I love nature; and in the end, I think my experience of this trip was really about all that love coming together.

25 August 2012

For Neil

Tonight, as I was on a photography walk, I saw the moon and thought it might be appropriate to take a picture of it on the night of Neil Armstrong's death.

I wasn't alive for Armstrong's walk on the moon, but I felt his loss today nonetheless. On one level, I sensed the passing of a momentous time in history. On another level, I realized Armstrong's importance to environmentalism. The moon missions gave us a new perspective on our world, and in doing so, they added momentum to the early days of the modern environmental movement.

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for helping change the way we view our planet.

24 August 2012

Our Communities, Our Lives

In my last post, I talked about how Turku, Finland, had created a community where bicyclists felt comfortable leaving their bikes unchained, and that entry got me thinking a little more about what the city had done.

Essentially, Turku made it easy for people to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation. In other words, bicycling was a valued priority. Another priority was an emphasis on outdoor activity in general. Aurajoki, a key river of the Turku area, flows through the city and has been turned into the center point for walking and bicycling. Well-maintained paths line both sides of the river, and they are used frequently. Check out the photos below:

My guess is that these paths are used for cross-country skiing and other snow-related activities in the winter.

Overall, Turku has committed to and created a safe, healthy, and environment-connected community for its residents. Clearly, their design for the area intentionally focused on these concerns, and once the heart of the design was identified, they set about making it a reality.

The message is that environmental efforts are about our desires for a high quality of life and a healthy environment. If think those things are indeed priorities, we have to make them happen.

17 August 2012

Bike Ownership

A bicyclist from Portland, Ore., is finding some YouTube fame for tracking down his stolen bike and helping police arrest the alleged thief. Check out the news article.

This story interests me for two reasons. First, it reminds me of my trip to Finland. While in Turku, the country's fifth largest city (178,784 people as of 31 January 2012), I was impressed with the number of bikes in use (even on really rainy days) and that very few people locked up their bikes. I only remember seeing one bike chained to something. The rest of the parked bikes, as you can tell from the pictures below, were simply left with the belief that they would be there when the owners returned.

When I saw these bikes in Finland, I thought about how different it was for bicyclists in the United States, and I realized that the Finns truly had ownership over their community. They had created and maintained a situation where they could feel safe and connected enough to trust people.

That brings up the second reason Oregon's YouTube bike saga interests me. The man whose bike was stolen expresses a strong sense of ownership of the bike, and it is clear he wants to fight for a community where that ownership is respected. US society may not yet have developed a culture in which a bicyclist can leave a bike unattended without worrying about it, but the more people show that we will not accept a culture where bike ownership is not respected, the closer we will be to enjoying the benefits of bicycling. Without question, that is the type of community we should all have.

14 August 2012

Look What We Found

Technology certainly creates some challenges for the environment. It often leads to new machines and devices that use up and level nature, and spending too much time with technology can keep us from connecting with the natural world.

However, technology can also benefit the environment. In the past, I have blogged about using smart phones and Web sites to connect with and help nature.

Now, TreeHugger reports a very cool story involving technology and the environment. To summarize, a picture on Flickr led to the discovery of a new species of insect. That's really awesome.

TreeHugger talks about how the story shows the increasing value of technology in things like citizen science. (Another example is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird project making its 100 millionth observation.) I think the insect story also provides proof of the power of people connecting around environmental topics. That connection can be aided by technology.

10 August 2012

Rethinking the Garden

Fertilizers and pesticides have become just another part of gardening, but such chemicals aren't always needed for a healthy, productive garden. In fact, more chemicals often hurt the health of your garden and you.

In the Pacific Northwest, King County and Thurston County in Washington state and Portland in Oregon have teamed up to make the Grow Smart, Grow Safe information guide to fertilizers and pesticides. The guide contains information on the chemicals in such products. It also offers alternative ideas for dealing with animals, insects, slugs and snails, weeds, and other things usually seen as problems for a garden.

Overall, Grow Smart, Grow Safe gives gardeners a little different way of looking at their gardens and the chemicals they might be putting into their plants. You can check out the guide by clicking here.

06 August 2012

Finnish VP

I'll end this series of entries on my Finland trip with a news story that is actually about the United States. However, since I saw the story in Finland and it probably received as much attention there as it did in the US, it still counts as part of my Finnish experience.

The news is that the US Green Party's vice presidential nominee will be a Finnish-American woman. Born into poverty in Minnesota, Cheri Honkala is an advocate for poor people's rights (she and Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein were just arrested for protesting housing foreclosures).

Honkala's ancestors immigrated to the US from Finland. You can read an English-language version of the news article about her nomination on Finnish news outlet Yle's Web site by clicking here.

As a fellow Finnish-American and an environmentalist, I find the news exciting.

04 August 2012

Making the Connection

When I was in Finland, I saw the following advertisement a number of times. It's actually not focused on Finland, but since I saw it there, I am including it in the blogs about my trip.

The ad comes from the World Wildlife Fund, and I think it's really cool. It focuses on the relationship between humans and nature, emphasizing what we have in common. Also, it is simple and to the point but emotionally powerful.

Check it out:

02 August 2012

See Ice Melt

In July, record ice melt was recorded in Greenland. High levels of melting occurred at two different times during the month (click here for details).

As it turned out, my mom and I were flying over and taking pictures of Greenland during the second big melt. We were returning from Finland and got some photos of icebergs breaking away from and melting ice pooling up on Greenland's glaciers.

I was glad to get the pictures because with melting events like those experienced last month, I'm not sure how much longer such pictures will be possible.

Here is a picture of some icebergs heading out to sea from the east coast of Greenland:

This is a picture of some of the meltwater pooling up in the middle of the country's southern region: